Striking the Perfect Balance Between Law and Technology

December 8, 2022
December 8, 2022
Mike Ross | Chief Customer Officer

Technology is redefining every profession, especially the legal field. Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning have become the common lexicon. As cloud databases replace filing cabinets, digital signatures supersede ink, and modern solutions handle the workflows of junior-level attorneys, lawyers are often left wondering how much technology is appropriate and how to strike the proper balance between law and technology. 

While many corporate legal departments are reluctant to change—the tipping point is here. In fact, the use of technology in legal practice is implied in American Bar Association Model Rule 1.3, which stipulates that “A lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client,” and again in Model Rule 1.5 which states “A lawyer shall not make an agreement for, charge, or collect an unreasonable fee or an unreasonable amount for expenses.” 

Given technology’s proven ability to expedite work and reduce costs for clients, lawyers are obligated to use it to provide legal work more efficiently. This article explores the potential benefits and pitfalls of legal technology as well as practical action steps for striking the perfect balance between law and technology.

Blurred street view with legal icons representing law and technology

Benefits of Technology in Law

Legal technology has the potential to solve many challenges that businesses face. Here are a few:

  • Automated reminders: The repetitive nature of legal work warrants automation. For instance, reminders can prompt lawyers to review contracts as they come up for renewal or expiration.  

  • Streamlined research: Once digitized, contracts become searchable documents. Lawyers can search for past trends, legal precedents, and effective strategies with greater ease. When negotiating, they need only link to a past document to provide context.

  • Faster analysis: Contract review and negotiation represents one of the most time-consuming tasks in the legal office—particularly at scale. Lawyers traditionally reviewed contracts by redlining errors, points of dispute, and providing comments to guide negotiations. Modern AI can accomplish these tasks in addition to risk analysis in less than 5 minutes.   

  • Greater access: While most lawyers spend some or most of their time in the office, technology allows for greater agility and flexibility. Teams can work remotely, for example, and collaboration is greatly improved with the use of digitized corporate legal playbooks and contract review software.

  • Improved quality: Lawyers are only human—and humans sometimes make mistakes due to fatigue, stress, or lack of training. While technology has its limitations, features such as AI-guided contract comparison can detect missing clauses, incorrect terminology, ambiguous language, and outdated positions—improving the quality of work.

  • Optimized workflows: Very few lawyers want to spend the majority of their time reading and revising contracts. Advances in AI will soon result in the automation of 23% of lawyers’ work, according to McKinsey. By automating contract review tasks, lawyers will have more time to focus on clients, analytical problem-solving, and strategic posturing.

  • Risk assessment: Advanced legal tech can color-code sections in a contract to provide involved parties an at-a-glance view of potential risks. This allows teams to prioritize their workflows, focus on the most business-critical areas, and spot repetitive risks that tend to arise over and over again.

  • Stress reduction: Manually proofreading, researching, and reviewing multiple documents (and sometimes multiple clients) inevitably lead to stress. Software can remove some of the burden, freeing legal counsel to tackle more creative tasks that improve work satisfaction.

Pitfalls of Technology in Law

With a perfect technology rollout, corporate legal departments can enjoy greater flexibility, optimized workflow management, cost reductions, and overall efficiency. However, if technology adoption is mishandled, legal teams may instead face some of these negative consequences of intersecting law and technology:

  • Customization needs: Software rarely performs to perfection out of the box. When systems come with prebuilt machine learning modules, senior counsel will need to reserve some time at the outset to program a customized set of rules for the system to follow. “Automation” can be a misleading term as even fully automated systems require human intervention to reach their full potential. 
  • Security: Digitized documents require robust security to reduce vulnerability to cyber threats. It’s more commonplace for thieves to capture confidential and private data through email hacks than to break into a physical office and steal paper documents. Everyone in the organization must be made aware of the risks involved in using legal technology.
  • Unemployment fallout: Hasty business leaders may see automation as an excuse to terminate junior-level staff. Deloitte estimates that technology has already led to a loss of 31,000 positions in the legal sector, particularly entry-level positions, which they believe will increase to 100,000 jobs automated by 2036. Downsizing not only leads to poor morale around the office, but actually hinders essential oversight processes. Technology is not meant to replace humans; it’s intended to improve the work they do.
  • Underutilization: When lawyers are overburdened with work, they may not have the time to train themselves on new technology. Learning curves are steeper without staff buy-in, which can lead to less-than-optimal outcomes and slower ROI after making the initial investment. Support varies considerably from vendor to vendor, so it’s imperative to find a company that delivers hands-on technical training. Communication must emphasize the reasons for change and demonstrate how the technology can transform the quality of the team’s work. 

  • Upfront costs: For cash-strapped businesses, cost can be a barrier to adopting legal technology. There are initial software and setup expenses, scaling costs per user, and the cost of ongoing maintenance. Companies must take care to find a solution that’s within their budget given their needs.

How to Find the Right Balance Between Law and Technology

Although the promise of legal automation is great, it takes a solid change management strategy to build new workflow systems, bring all team members on board, and execute the technology rollout successfully. 

A detailed course of action can help strike the right balance between law and technology: 

  1. Lead with challenges: Knowing the current pain points can go a long way toward selecting the right technology for the job and convincing teams to adopt. Leadership must be clear about not only how the new technology is to be implemented, but why. Success starts with a clear vision.

  2. Ensure security: Ask about data encryption, third-party verification of the vendor’s security measures, and how information is backed up. These days, legal teams’ security, including protection provided by vendors, must be well documented and defensible in court to reduce organizational risks. 

  3. Secure vendor support: Asking vendors questions during setup will provide the company with adequate resources to implement the software and address team questions or concerns. Multiple stakeholders should be involved so there is an internal team of experts ensuring productivity is measured and maintained once the new technology debuts.

Take It to the Next Level with LexCheck

For businesses ready to merge law and technology for their clients’ benefit, LexCheck is here to help. With self-guided automation capabilities that apply the right amount of technology for boosting contract efficiency and success, LexCheck’s AI-powered solution focuses on the pre-execution contract review and negotiation stages. Key features include the following:

  • Compare contracts to a Digital Playbook for consistent term compliance

  • Redline contracts for errors, omissions, and ambiguity

  • Receive a fully redlined and/or risk-analyzed draft in five minutes

  • Make changes to drafts with the click of a button.

Increasingly, legal teams are looking to technology to solve organizational challenges, modernize their workflows, do more with less, and gain momentum. And with legal tech continuing to evolve at an unprecedented pace, now’s the time to use it.

LexCheck is a contract acceleration and intelligence platform that automatically redlines contracts in minutes according to your negotiation guidelines.

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